Saturday, July 24, 2010

In transition

Day in the Life of Michelle

Major Change in Cancer Treatment--

Three weeks ago an emergency PET/CT scan and tumor marker blood test revealed that chemo was not working and I was sent to another doctor for possible participation in a clinical trial. Two weeks of lab work, physical exam, review of previous treatment reports, and three MRIs resulted in acceptance in a clinical trial of twice monthly infusion of two drugs, Avastin and mystery drug.

Am I glad I qualified to be in the clinical trial? Yes, because I have new options. You might recall that during the past two years my previous oncologist took me through five different chemotherapy drugs for the cancer in my pelvic region. Three of the drugs successfully attacked the cancer, but as is the case with my particular cancer, the cancer 'smartens up' and the chemo becomes useless.

The 'best part' about being at my new medical facility for the clinical trial is that I live ten blocks from the clinic. The other 'best thing' is the place I'm going for the (four, going on five) MRIs is at an imaging center just a few miles from my home. Compare that to the forty minute drive, from door to door of my previous and wonderful doctor, and 'I'm a happy camper!'

My arms are providing the blood for analysis, sometimes ten vials at a time, and my blood vessels are the highways for medical contrasts and clinical trial drugs, however, the injured tissues from multiple poking on both arms are sensitive. Today my arms are healing through the color range of red, green, and purple.

The technicians say, "You have great veins, now just relax."
Yeah, right! I think. Just poke me in the right spot and then I won't tighten up!

The next few months looks like this:
Next week, blood draw and the following week receive the second infusion of drugs in the left arm while my right arm is used for multiple blood draws. I'm given multiple EKGs and my vitals are checked (heart rate, blood pressure and pulse) every 15 minutes
The following week: MRI with contrast and return to clinic for blood draw, aka "Safety labs"
This completes Cycle 1, about one month in length

Mid August begin Cycle 2 with "Safety labs" (multiple blood draws, urinalysis ), EKGs, check of vitals every 15 minutes during the infusion process of the two bags of liquid drugs.
The following week, "Safety labs"
Next week, drug infusion, and of course, Safety labs, EKGs, and check of vitals every 15 minutes during the infusion process
The following week, "Safety labs"

PET/CT scan in September

Begin Cycle 3, if everything is going as planned.

Are there side effects?

Possibly! and
This topic will be explored in the future

"Day in the Life of Michelle"
mixed media
about 11 x 14 "
July 2010
Premiere Oncology Foundation Art Therapy workshop

Thursday, July 15, 2010

On a good morning, I can see ...

Yesterday I had my second meeting with my new oncologist. WE (my two loving supporters) really helped me feel taller, bigger, and stronger as I'm facing the multiple options and then ranking the best treatment plans or clinical trials. They both took notes and one, a cancer survivor, assisted in asking questions. While the doctor was out of the office we had a chance to review facts and perceptions. And then, reading the notes last night helped me to feel even more knowledgable.

While the oncologist and I will speak today with the results of his afternoon meeting with his colleagues on my case, I'm feeling pretty confident in my abilities to review, question, and decide the best course of action.

Oh, did I tell you there are other professional and personal contacts who are helping me through this process?


Acrylic on wood, 2009
Currently on display at Premiere Oncology, Santa Monica, CA

Monday, July 12, 2010

"I need my chemo"

For the women readers, you might be able to relate to this: Even though I have NOT had a period in about twenty years, my tummy area feels like the first couple of days of the cycle. General pain, cramps--sometimes very sharp, and severe fatigue. But his time we can -- Blame it on the cancer!

My new oncologist and I will discuss and plan my next course of treatment this week. Heck, does it matter, what will be worst? Continued uncontrolled cancer in my torso, OR the loss of hair, neurophy and/hand foot syndrome, nausea, eating disorders, and IVs/or some other way to get the chemo into my body!

In any event, I will be graced with the presence of my family, friends, support groups and therapists, professional medical teams, medical plans, and that which can not be put into words.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Now What?

As an update of the last week or so, the fluid (ascites, a by product of uncontrolled cancer) in my torso has been increasing for at least the past week. Since I experienced this a year ago and ended up with a 4-day hospital stay, I suspected that the chemo I began at the beginning of June was NOT working.

On Monday, July 5, a holiday, I decided I would start my preparation for a CT-PET scan (limited food and drink procedure) on Tuesday, and prepare to show-up at my oncologist's office early Tuesday morning, all in order to get this checked out, without having to be admitted to the hospital.

I was very lucky because someone cancelled her scan and I was scanned by 1pm! !!!!! My oncologist had the report by Wednesday am and I was in his office by 1:10, ten minutes early !!!

Since I have been on five different chemos over the past two years, two of which did not work, he was sending me to Premiere Oncology, a place I go for weekly art therapy sessions. He said there may be some clinical trials that maybe effective.

My oncologist wanted to be notified who my new doctor would be so the two of them could have a discussion about my case and to whom he would fax my records. From the oncologist office I attempted to make an appointment with the best doctor who was doing ovarian cancer clinical trials. The time: 1:30. After 15 minutes of being on hold because the scheduler at Premiere was busy, I was told P..., would call me back. As I was leaving my dear oncologist office, the doctor who has help me to stay alive since 2004, he was faxing my records to the head doctor at Premiere Oncology.

As I drove home, there was NO return call from P... . I have run into that issue of not receiving a call-back in a timely fashion in the past with my GP so, then as well as yesterday, I decided to JUST show up! Did I tell you that Premiere Oncology is ten blocks from my home!

By 5 o'clock, the two doctors had spoken, the 19-page fax of my most important medical history was in the new doctor's hands, my vitals were taken by a nurse I know, and my new doctor, someone I had previously met on several other occasions, had completed the comprehensive, intake examination. The 'Ball is rolling.'

By this Thursday morning I will have an appointment to get the excess fluid withdrawn from my torso ASAP. It feels like there is at least a gallon of fluid filling my torso and pressing on my organs.

p.s. While my new doctor was examining me my phone silently went off at 4:30--I later checked it and it was P... returning my call. "Please call back to make an appointment" (Little did she know, I created my own appointment by being "Patient Active," an important concept from The Wellness Community, an international and local support program for cancer survivors and family.

Image: Detail of a custom made bed spread from Bali